“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” - Leo Tolstoy
I have written about changes many times. There was a time when I didn’t understand that life around me was truly changing. I was younger and just moved through life with blinders doing what I was “supposed” or “expected” to do. At some point, early in my freshman year of college, I decided I was utterly unhappy. I hated the college I was going to, I hated living in a dorm, I hated my roommate, but most of all I hated myself. I stopped looking in the mirror, I stopped going to class, softball practice, essentially anything I thought I had control over. At that point I decided I needed to make a change; something needed to be different because I couldn’t live my life any longer feeling so unhappy.
I took my “blinders” off and experienced reality shock because I had never stopped to smell the roses in my life. I always had to be somewhere or meet someone or complete some task. I wasn’t ever allowed to just be. The world outside my extremely boxed-in vision was huge and fast and scary. Though I noticed how beautiful trees were and how wonderfully warm the sun felt against my skin, I was scared to expand my vision.
And then mental illness set in and I figured my life was over. I suddenly was being called “the bipolar” when I was in doctors’ offices or hospitals. I lost my name. I lost my career. I lost my independence. I folded myself comfortably into the protection of misery and stayed there feeling sorry for myself for quite a while. I was comfortably uncomfortable. I would think about things I would like to do; things I would like to accomplish; things I would like to be different, but my immediate response would be to tuck in tighter so I didn’t have to risk anything bad by making a change. I couldn’t take any more bad.
Over several years I started to open the cocoon. I started thinking more clearly about what I might want to do. I kept saying to family and friends “I’m gonna…” do whatever, but no change was happening. Then a dear friend of mine handed me a folded up paper from a project on which she was working and it was a quote that said, “true life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Suddenly things became clearer to me. I could think and talk about change all I wanted, but true change was never going to happen until I actually started DOING something different. Change can be movement, growth, or sometimes regression but it always implies action.
When I finally realized that small steps were just fine in my journey of life, the outside world didn’t seem quite so scary. I could suddenly start walking the steps toward completing my Master’s Degree because I realized it was just that – steps, not a leap from here to the end. How many opportunities I’ve missed in my life because I wasn’t willing to DO things different? I wanted to think things different but that doesn’t work. Change is still not easy, but I am at a point in my life that I am no longer going to miss opportunities because some negative change might be included. Sometimes we have to backup in order to gain our footing. Even backward steps are “tiny changes” and are still certainly “true life.”